Day 165 & 166. Thursday 9th & Saturday 11th November. Morton to Neston.
Life, goes on day after day,
Hearts, torn in every way,
So, Ferry cross the Mersey,
For this land's the place I love,
And here I'll stay....
I might try and start every blog with a song... don't even pretend that you didn't smile at yourself while you were singing along to that Gerry and The Pacemakers classic... 🤣 that'll be in your head all day now, just to make sure, I'll end the blog with another verse... You're welcome... 😘 The ferry across the Mersey has got to be one of the most iconic river crossings, certainly in the UK anyway, not just because of the song but because of the Skye line on both sides of the river. They play short snaps of the song on the commentary link on the boat tannoy, only bits of it because they don't have the rights to play it all apparently.
Something else I learned on the boat, did you know, until the potato famine of 1845-1852 which killed over 1 million people in Ireland, there was no such thing as a Scouse accent ? The people of Merseyside spoke with a Lancashire accent until the massive influx of Irish people escaping Ireland, over 1 million people left Ireland with hundreds of thousands settling in Liverpool. It was their influence on the accent of the locals which eventually became what we now know as 'Scouce'. Who knew !!!
In 1963, these four lads were leaving Liverpool to begin their international touring careers, we all know what happened then and it was amazing that I was back in Liverpool, around the Cavern Quarter when their last ever song was released, some 40 years after John Lennon had written it. I've heard it a few times and I really like it.
When I got off the ferry I headed up to the North End of Birkenhead for a look round, I don't know the area particularly well but had events turned out differently back in 1969, this might have been a very different story. I'll not elaborate on this now, you'll be able to read all about it when I write the book at the end of this walk. I went into the pub where I knew my late father used to drink, the landlord and the bar staff knew him well and I was pleased to hear they spoke highly of him. I had a pint and sat in 'his' seat but was warned not to sit tapping my foot like he did or I'd get a slap... 😬
It was only 5pm when I left the pub but it was dark and I was in the North End of Birkenhead so I got on the first bus to Moreton, I had the offer of a hot shower and a bed which I couldn't resist. I'm sure that now I've mastered the accent I'd be fine wandering around in the dark up the North End but there was no point in tempting fate...
Anyway, I'd not seen Jon and Kate for a few years and Jon had kindly offered me a bed and as much support as I needed while I was in the area. Jon's mum and her sister were friends of my mums older sisters while growing up in Wallasey back in the 1960's and have stayed in touch ever since. Actually, I learnt from Jon's mum that Jon's Nan and my Nan were also friends so our families go back a long way. Jon was also a Royal Engineer back in the day and is an all round great guy so it was lovely to see him and Kate again. Jon cooked us a lovely meal and we caught up over a bottle of wine.
The following day I got a train back to Liverpool as I'd been invited back to the Liverpool Freemasons Hall to attend the Remembrance Service and to meet the Provincial Grand Master, both of which were an honour.
To meet John, a fellow Sapper was also an honour. More medals hanging off this guy than all the badges I earned in the cubs and scouts combined, what a top bloke. The service of Remembrance was very moving and was followed by a lunch reception, I did feel very underdressed but was made to feel very welcome.
It was lovely to meet the Provincial Grand Master and the Group Chairman and when the Group Chairman very kindly introduced me to everyone, sitting enjoying their lunch, I was proud to be referred to as 'a plastic Scouce' !!! I'm not sure but I think that is freindly term used to acknowledge anyone with a 'Scouce' accent that doesn't actually hail from Liverpool... I'll take that, even though I don't think I have a Scouce accent... do I ??? Ay, Ay...
Oh, and by the way... John, the Sapper, pictured above, I met him a few times visiting the Freemasons Hall, his surname is McKenna. Only the great, great grandson of John McKenna, the Chairman of Liverpool Football Club. An Irish businessman, a professional rugby player and the first manager of LFC. McKenna served as Liverpools Chairman from 1906-1915. He was elected as President of the football league in 1917, a position he held until his death in 1936. He had served Liverpool for over 40 years but more than that, he was also an active Freemason, a member of Cecil Lodge No. 3274.
After the ceremony, I walked back down to the train station and managed to catch the wrong train back to Moreton. I couldn't work out the information board so I asked a member of staff, he showed me exactly where to go so I ran down to the platform and jumped on the train which had just pulled in. What he didn't tell was that the same platform was used by trains going to different locations so when I got to the end of the line at New Brighton, I had to stay on the train and travel back to Wallasey and change trains to Morton !!! No harm done, just an hour wasted !!! Jon picked me up and being 4pm on Friday afternoon there was only place we were going... pub... 🍺
Kate joined us a bit later and we went down to their local Indian restaurant for a lovely meal before heading back to Jon's for a shower and bed. Jon dropped me round at his mums house the next morning, it was always the done thing back in the day to address friends of the family as Auntie or Uncle, so it was lovely to sit with 'auntie Jean' and have a cuppa, I just hope I'm as switched on as she is when I'm in my '80's, it was great to have a catch up but I needed to get moving. I'd had a few easy days and it was time to get some miles under my belt, looking at the map I'd worked out it would be 16-17 miles to get around to Neston which would be the last town I'd visit in England before crossing the river Dee into Wales.
It was a perfect day for walking along the coast, the sun was out and there was no wind. Lots of lovely people were chatting to me as I passed by and many of them kindly went onto my funding page and donated. The people of Merseyside and The Wirral are the most incredibly welcoming and generous people I've ever met, it has been a pleasure walking down your coastline and I'll be sad to move on.
I got into Neston in the dark, I was walking along the road near the waters edge when a guy came out of his driveway and walked along with me. We got chatting and I enquired which was the best pub to head for, follow me he said, I'm off there now. What a great bunch of guys, he introduced me to his mates in the pub, we had a few pints and they gave me directions to the cricket pitch up in the town where I could pitch my tent for the night. Cheers guys, it was a real pleasure.
People around every corner
Seem to smile and say
We don't care what your name is, boy
We'll never turn you away
So I'll continue to say
Here I always will stay
So ferry 'cross the Mersey
'Cause this land's the place I love
And here I'll stay....